Speaking on the phone
Maintaining human contact
Speaking on the phone
Maintaining human contact
During the last few years that I practised dentistry, most of my patients brought mobile telephones into my surgery.
You would be surprised how many patients tried to answer their ‘phones when my fingers were in their mouths or their mouths were filled with impression (mold taking) material.
Worse still, were patients who were ‘texting’ constantly when I was trying to explain their treatment options to them.
Once, a patient arrived late, speaking on his mobile phone. He muttered to me that he was in the middle of a telephone job interview. I had no choice, but to let him continue. After half an hour, he told me he was ready for me. I told him that he had wasted my time and his appointment and had to book another one.
In the end, I put up a large sign in my surgery forbidding the use of mobile phones, which was rude and inconsiderate. This solved the problem because, to my surprise, most people obeyed it.
When I first became aware of public telephone boxes – that would have been in the early 1960s – they operated as follows. The caller first inserted a suitable number of coins, and then dialled. If the call was answered, the caller had to press a button marked ‘A’ in order to continue the call. By pressing this button, the inserted coins moved into the cash box. If, on the other hand, the recipient of the call did not answer or was busy on another call, the caller had to press button ‘B’. By doing so, the inserted coins were returned.
The A and B call boxes were later replaced by another system. The caller dialled the number. If it was answered, the caller heard a series of beeps. At this point, the caller had to insert money in order to remain connected. Many years after this newer system was installed, my father used to yell down the ‘phone:
“Press button ‘A'”
He did this despite the fact that button ‘A’ no longer existed.
Today, with the advent of mobile telephones, mastering the intricacies of operating public telephone boxes has become almost unneccessary.
It is amazing how many things, which used to be done with two hands, are now done with only one hand. It worries me to watch a parent manoevering a child in a baby buggy off a bus or train literally single-handed, often while looking at a mobile ‘phone screen.
Why only one hand nowadays? The answer is simple. Many people seem incapable of going anywhere or doing anything if one hand does not hold a mobile ‘phone or maybe a bottle of water.
Why is it necessary to be permanently attached to a ‘phone? It can be kept in a bag or pocket within easy reach thus freeing up the hand for more productive uses.
And, what has happened to human metabolism that requires a bottle of water to be carried about? I might be old-fashioned, but several decades ago, nobody felt it essential to carry a personal water supply. Have we become more thirsty as a species, or what?
A long time ago, I remember seeing an advertisement issued either by Aer Lingus or the Irish tourist board, which said:
“In Ireland, it rains every fifteen minutes for a quarter of an hour”
During my first visit to the Republic of Ireland (Eire) back in 1976, I stayed with some friends in their secluded country house far south of Dublin. Remote as it was, it had a telephone, but it was without a dial. To use the ‘phone, it was necessary to lift the receiver and then turn a small crank several times. This crank sent a signal to the operator at the exchange, who then connected you to the switchboard. Next, you told the operator which number you required, and he or she then tried to connect you.
One night, there was a fierce storm with much wind. On the morning following, one of our party wished to make a ‘phone call. After several attempts to alert the operator with the cranking mechanism, we concluded that the storm had damaged the line connecting the house to the exchange. We thought that it would take many days before this would be repaired. One of my friends suggested that we got in the car and followed the telephone line to discover how and where it was damaged.
Soon, we found the place where the problem had occurred. The wind had caused the two wires that led to the house to become tangled in the branches of the tree. One of my friends stood on the roof of our vehickle and using a long stick, a branch that had been brought down by the storm, managed to disentangle the wires. When we returned to the house, we discovered that the problem had been resolved. Life was so simple in those days!
When I first qualified as a dentist and went into practice in 1982, nobody possessed mobile telephones (cell-phones). By the time I retired in 2017, practically all of my patients, even some of the children, carried and used these ‘phones. Believe it or not, my patients often tried using their ‘phones during my appointments.
It was very annoying and ruinous for concentration when a patient stopped me in the midst of performing a delicate operation in his or her mouth in order to answer the ‘phone. Some patients even attempted speaking on their mobiles when their mouths were full of impression materials.
One day, I met my next patient at the reception desk. He had arrived punctually, but had his ‘phone up to his ear. He smiled at me, and then said:
“Give me a minute, I am in the middle of a telephone interview for a job.”
“Ok,” I replied, “come into my surgery when you are finished.”
Ten minutes of his half an hour appointment passed, then fifteen, and then twenty…
At the end of half an hour, I returned to the reception desk. My patient laid down his ‘phone, smiled, and said:
“I’m ready now. My interview is over.”
“So is your dental appointment. You had better book another one another day.”
Even more annoying were those who insisted on asking me a question and then, instead of listening to my reply, began sending SMS messages. I recall one lady, who had very complex dental problems, which required much explanation of treatment options before I could proceed any further with helping her. Did she listen to me? Oh, no she did not. For half an hour, she sent a series of SMS messages whilst I spoke. At the end of her appointment, she asked me to repeat what I had been telling her because she had had to send a series of “very important” messages. After that experience, I put up a notice in my surgery, forbidding the use of mobile ‘phones. It was a successful move. Patients would reach for their ‘phones, and then my assistant or I would point at the notice. The patient would then apologise, and turn off the ‘phone.
mobile phone stolen
contacts imag-es vanish:
For several years I worked in a west London practice near Portobello Road . My patients came from families that had originated in many parts of the world. Almost all of them had lively characters. They were not your average quiet provincial types, who respect professionals – a bit too much in my opinion. They were unpredictable in their punctuality and behaviour. This made every one of my working days exciting, sometimes a bit too much so.
‘J’ was a frequent attender with many dental concerns. Although he made appointments, I could be sure that the appointment times were those that he was least likely to appear at the surgery. His timing was erratic to say the least.
When J arrived, he ignored the reception desk and would come straight into my surgery even if I was already treating a patient. If I was in the midst of treating someone, he would respect my asking him to wait until I was free. He would then hover around outside my surgery, and if the wait was too long for him he would disappear, only to reappear unannounced and unexpectedly a few days or weeks later.
One afternoon when I was free, J, who was not a nervous patient, ran into my surgery. He was too agitated to sit down in my dental chair. Instead, he leant against one of the walls of my small room.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“It’s bad, man.”
“Can you tell me about it? Do you want to talk?” I asked.
“My mobile ‘phone has been nicked.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“I know who took it.”
“Really,” I said, “then, can’t you get it back?”
“I don’t know, man. But, I know who nicked it, and I am going to get the boys from South London to put him six feet under.”
Having said those worrying words, he settled into my dental chair.
I was a little intimidated by his appearance the first time he walked into my surgery. Tall, well-built, he clutched a half eaten sandwich in one hand and a bundle of papers in the other. When he had finished masticating the piece of sandwich in his mouth, he told me that the police had banned him from entering the area. Waving his collection of papers, he explained that his solicitor needed to get permission from the police when he needed to see a dentist at the practice.
P wanted a new set of dentures. Inwardly quaking, I took the primary impressions of his toothless gums, and then asked him to return a week later for the next stage of his treatment. By the end of the appointment, I felt that he was going to be a pleasant patient and that I need not fear him.
On the penultimate appointment, I tried the wax mock-up of his dentures to check that all was proceeding well. I let P look in the mirror. He was very pleased and wanted to take them away. I explained that the waxed version had to go back to the technician to be made into the final, usable plastic product. I told him that they would be ready in a week.
Looking crestfallen, P said :”really ? That might be awkward?”
I asked why.
“I am seeing the judge next week. If he puts me behind bars, I won’t be able to collect the teeth.”
I asked him if he could let me know if he was unable to return.
“Sure, doc,” he said, “I can phone you from prison.”
I said to him: “I see now. That’s what people mean by a ‘Cell phone'”
P gave me a huge toothless grin.
P did return for his teeth a week later, but I was not at work. I’d had to cancel my clinic to attend our daughter’s birth.